Sunday, March 22, 2015

Military Justice in the 21st century: Professor Fernando Flores' assessment

In a very interesting blog post on the website Alrevésyalderecho, here, Spanish constitutional law professor Fernando Flores reflects on military justice in this day and age.

In light of the Cantera case, Professor Flores questions the adequacy of still having military courts where people in the military judge their peers. He aptly lays out the origins of military justice in Spain and its current configuration: military justice is a specialized jurisdiction because of the area in which it is exercised (martial) and for the specific law it applies. Since 1987, military justice has been integrated into the judicial power of the State, in accordance with the principle of unity of jurisdiction.

Professor Flores admits that there have been substantial changes in military justice, but he contends that we still need to reflect on some significant aspects of military courts. While some argue that military justice, as well as a specific military criminal law, is essential to maintain the discipline and efficacy of the missions attributed to the Army, he argues that disciplinary misdemeanors and crimes can also be addressed in an ordinary criminal code and dealt with efficiently by ordinary judges.

He questions the independence and impartiality of military judges and prosecutors, and concludes that, especially in peacetime, it is doubtful that organizational and functional arguments justify setting up separate military courts. Professor Flores argues that it is possible that the purpose of the arguments in favor of military exceptionalism is actually to maintain a degree of autonomy hardly compatible with the current constitutional order.

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